Europeans ‘not grasping’ the importance of Ukraine

September 14, 2015
A Ukrainian serviceman embraces his wife and child after returning from the frontline in the eastern regions, at a railway station in Kiev, Ukraine

A Ukrainian serviceman embraces his wife and child after returning from the frontline in the east, at a railway station in Kiev, Ukraine, September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Three important Americans, high in politics and in the military over the past two decades, told their European equivalents that they weren’t getting it. They were not doing their bit to keep the free world, of which they are a part, free. They were not grasping the central importance of Ukraine.

The Americans said so in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, where over the past weekend Victor Pinchuk, one of the very wealthy oligarchs who are the not-well-hidden wiring of the Ukrainian state, put on his 12th Yalta European Strategy (YES) forum, inviting a galaxy of the past and present mighty to debate the future of his imperiled state. The first 10 of these conferences were, indeed, held in the Livadia Palace in Yalta, in the Ukrainian province of Crimea: but Russia invaded Crimea in 2013, and thus only the name remains.

The loss of Crimea, Russia’s backing of the breakaway militants in Ukraine’s eastern industrial provinces of Donbass and Lugansk, the further impoverishment of the already poor country, shorn of 25 percent of its industrial capacity and unable to attract international investment, is again the backdrop to the YES forum.

And the fact that this should be so, and that the country is no nearer to recovering its lost lands or beating back the invading neighbor, is the cause of the Americans’ frustration. Full-scale fighting has stopped and a ceasefire is, formally, in place. In fact, on the first day of the conference, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that, for the first time since fighting broke out, not a shot had been fired for 24 hours. But no one has much faith in its lasting.

Larry Summers, a former U.S. treasury secretary, lauded the “extraordinary effort” made by Ukraine to improve its financial position (painful cuts have been much of the cure) — and demanded a matching effort from the Europeans.

“The European Union has a huge strategic stake in Ukraine, as a buffer (against Russia), and they have not delivered half of what they promised two years ago. This is not charity. It’s a security investment. There is no better investment than the provision of $5 to $10 billion a year to aid reform.”

Strobe Talbott, former U.S. deputy secretary of state and now head of the Brookings Institution, said he believed that, on the Russian side, “the cease fire is not an attempt to get peace, but to lull the west — perhaps especially Paris — into dropping its guard.” President Francois Hollande of France, a guarantor with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the truce, is keenest that the Western sanctions against Russia be lifted, citing observance of the ceasefire.

And the military man, General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, voiced skepticism that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was up to the tasks it had shouldered, saying that “it must be a credible military entity — must be ready and able to do the things it promises.” Asked if he thought Europeans were doing enough to ensure that, he said — “No, Europe is not doing enough. You must have forces that can work together — instead you have a number of pieces that don’t provide synergy for each other. It will take more effort.”

There are Europeans who think the same. Also present in Kiev were two former foreign ministers, Radek Sikorski of Poland and Carl Bildt of Sweden, who had pushed the European Union into bringing Ukraine into an association agreement, the largest reason for the breach with Russia.

Bildt said that “we (the EU) just gave another 86 billion euros to Greece! We must support Ukraine — it will take a lot — but if we do it, it will be a shining example.”

Sikorski said that “I don’t think the EU is serious about its eastern strategy. We must tell (Russian President Vladimir) Putin he cannot win — and if he moves further into Ukraine, we will deliver arms.” But neither Sikorski, nor Bildt, are in power now.

The Ukrainian government talks tough. Poroshenko said that Ukraine is “fighting for European values,” and that “the sanctions must stay as long as the Russians occupy Crimea and support the Donbass.” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said “Putin has put 40,000 troops in the Donbass. But he’s made a trap for himself. If he withdraws them he’s dead in Russia. If he tries to get more Ukrainian territory he’s dead in the world.”

But the Europeans, struggling with a migrants’ flood, the euro crisis unsolved, now wish for an end to sanctions which hurt their exporters and freeze relations with Russia. Hollande is in the lead: He’s under pressure from industrialists and the agriculture lobby to open up the Russian market again, and with Merkel has called for a meeting with Putin and Poroshenko in Paris, probably on October 2.

Sensing a withdrawal of support and the permanent loss of Crimea and the Donbass, the Ukrainian press has reacted fiercely. At the weekend, the Kiev Post wrote that Hollande “might as well build a replica of the armistice railway carriage in which France surrendered to Germany in 1940.”

The Kiev government is weaker than it was last year, however. One of the members of the coalition government has pulled out. Poroshenko made former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili governor of the Odessa region, and last month he launched an attack on Yatsenyuk, accusing him — on Channel 5, owned by the industrial group Poroshenko created — of favoring certain oligarchs, blocking the dismissal of corrupt managers and refusing to allow Saakashvili to reform Odessa’s notoriously bribe-taking customs’ service.

There’s been tension between Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, since the president semi-publicly toyed with replacing him with Saakashvili.

The reforms are slow, the bureaucracy venal and obstructive, tariffs on energy are rising sharply and war may break out again.

Summers is right. Europeans, collectively, have not grasped how strategic Ukraine is; how much support it needs to remain an independent state and start the long haul to economic growth. That is in part because, while Ukraine is a weak state, Europe isn’t one at all: yet is called to act like one. And, when push comes to shove, it can’t.



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The wealthy class of the world want to bring Ukraine into the fold of “free-market capitalism”, where Ukraine wealth can be more freely exploited by the giant multi-national corporations registered in New York, Houston, London, Paris and Tel Aviv.

These are the same multi-national corporations and hedge funds that control the U.S. Congress, the U.S. President, and the U.S. Military.

They routinely offshore American jobs, sell military technology to foreign countries, and betray and utterly destroy the American middle class culture from within.

I say, Ukraine, prepare to be exploited and digested by “free-market capitalism” of the international criminal wealthy.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive

>>They were not doing their bit to keep the free world
Like one states managed to keep in the Middle East?
EU must appreciate results of their policy – no less.

>> tariffs on energy are rising sharply
Junta is doing everything to keep people happy.
Breaking economic ties with Russia (the largest trade partner) – will add just more turmoil.
EU probably should be glad they got Ukraine in the orbit in very poor condition – ready for sale.

Posted by Slat | Report as abusive

Ukraine is run by oligarchs, many of whom are Russian or who have allegiance to the Russian Federation. Maidan’s purpose, according to many that were there, was to rid Ukraine of the oligarch political class, where business men and women had their puppets in parliament, or they themselves were in parliament stealing directly from the state’s coffers. After a new government was elected post-Yanukovych, Russia fearing its rule in Ukraine, through proxy oligarchs and business people was coming to an end, invaded Ukraine, knowing that the government could not reform when under military attack, because you need the strongest of society as allies, you can’t imprison the incredibly wealthy when you need their support, or the whole corrupt system collapses and people don’t have the money to eat and fight an invading army. Time to toughen up, not just in Ukraine, but in the EU, the US and other countries where corrupt Ukrainian public officials buy palatial mansions and luxurious apartments, if you are a PEP (politically exposed person), or your assets don’t match your income, you shouldn’t be allowed to buy property, more stringent legislation is needed, particularly for those coming from countries like Ukraine.

Posted by ActuallyInUA | Report as abusive

How strategic Ukraine is?

Yes. Very strategic indeed…to the Russians. They also want a buffer state. They don’t want to see NATO and thE EU lapping right up to their front door. If we want a serious rapprochement and steady peaceful relationship with Russia, then we need to remember that they have red lines too and any negotiations or discussions need to reflect this or they will fail. If they fail, more innocent people die in this war.

Posted by Thurlac | Report as abusive

Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, not 2013.

Posted by TheShippingLane | Report as abusive

Here the original John Lloyd the neocon returns. The situation reminds me of all those ex-Communist bosses who shed their skins to become self-declared “partiots”. And, shouting their “patriotism, kept looting and destroying their country for roughly a quarter century now. How many more skins do they have to shed – in case winds change again? What about you, Mr. Lloyd?

Posted by BraveNewWrld | Report as abusive

Ukrainians and russians are the same people – much less different than Scotts and English. Does Europe “grasp the importance of independent Scotland?” What about you, Mr. Lloyd, – independent Scotland, yes or no? I understand that, unkike in Ukraine, Scottish “real patriots”, all 45% of the population, lost their cause, so that “traitors” took over, subduing Scotland to British imperialism, right? Should we support “patriots” in Scotland? If not – why should we support very similar strand of “patriots” in Ukraine?

Posted by BraveNewWrld | Report as abusive

Who is free in this secret police world? No one here in the US, that is for sure. Maybe the extremely wealthy have some autonomy, but I am a slave to corrupt and evil people. Sure, many enjoy being slaves as the results of their slavery are better that having to live with the consequences of their own decisions, but I am not them. Not everyone has been taught to be a compliant follower and not everyone is oblivious to the evil that is our leaders.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

The Ukraine should be a suspicious of its oligarchs as the Russians should be, but are not, of theirs.

There can be no real democracy for as long as the rich will want to influence political outcomes.

PS: The US needs a lesson in democracy as well …

Posted by deLafayette | Report as abusive

Looks like author forgot to append the following to the title – ” to US”.

Posted by Mottjr | Report as abusive

Obviously Mr. Lioyd thinks Ukraine makes a value to Europe. But a Country which doesn’t fullfill the contracts never paid the bills does not fit in this European Standard. Ukraine must fullfill all bills and rules which they have signed in 1991 to Russian and their CIS Partners. Not even the CIS contract is cancelled by Ukaine.
As long as such burdens exists – Ukraine is a highly unreliable partner around the World.

Posted by toedi | Report as abusive

Russia is in strategic retreat (demographic, economic, etc) but on the offensive tactically. After WWII Austria was for years a buffer state between Nato and the Warsaw Pact. The people who are driving Ukraine to
be a confrontation state re: Russia lack imagination for diplomatic solutions and may get the US embroiled in a hair-trigger stance.
Best to follow the lead of the Germans and other Europeans to solve this.

Posted by hoipolloi | Report as abusive

I think Reuters, Europe and the rest of the world are failing to forget about an even more oppressed country in Eastern Europe…Belarus, which is really the true center of Europe. Their own people don’t even care to vote in the upcoming election because they are disappointed in the current regime. They are dealing with fake pro-Russian candidates. The country restricts chances for political activity and monitor all of its media as a tool for propaganda. Lukashenka is running for the fifth time, sure the elections will be rigged.

Posted by maximillion92 | Report as abusive

Free world. Now there’s a map I’d like to see. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China. All trade partners, allies, and/or recipients of our foreign aide. Are they part of the “free world?”

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

I see the paid PutinBots are out in force commenting here again.

Posted by evilhippo | Report as abusive

I’m trying to reconcile how foreign interests propping up any government somehow makes them “independent”?

Posted by 2ndThink | Report as abusive

Ukraine is boring but what is important is that we must investigate the war crimes, where European soldiers are involved, 21461.html
Authorities of Ukraine insist that everything is fine but the evidence above says that we should pay attention to what’s going on in Ukraine.

Posted by Kristiand | Report as abusive

Self determination for others, but only if our interests are served first. The hypocrisy is revolting.

Posted by sarkozyrocks | Report as abusive

Kennan opposed the Clinton administration’s war in Kosovo and its expansion of NATO (the establishment of which he had also opposed half a century earlier), expressing fears that both policies would worsen relations with Russia. He described NATO enlargement as a “strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions”.
Perhaps a nuclear war or a bankrupt US?
The United States currently provides about 25 percent of these NATO common-funded budgets, and will continue to do so after the addition of the new members. source NATO

NATO countries to follow through on commitments to spend 2 percent of their nations’ gross domestic product on defense. Only four NATO nations meet that threshold: the U.S., Britain, Greece and Estonia.

At present, NATO has 28 members. In 1949, there were 12 founding members of the Alliance: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. The other member countries are: Greece and Turkey (1952), Germany (1955), Spain (1982), the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (1999), Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia (2004), and Albania and Croatia (2009).

Posted by americangrizzly | Report as abusive

24 of 28 NATO countries don’t pay a fair share of NATO’s costs. They prefer diplomacy, and in fact defund NATO as this is controlled solely by the US. Basically not paying their bill and spending this money in their host country to benefit their citizens lives. The US government will probably shutdown 1 Oct of non essential spending. As Congress by the Constitution can defund.

Posted by americangrizzly | Report as abusive

“The loss of Crimea, Russia’s backing of the breakaway militants in Ukraine’s eastern industrial provinces of Donbass and Lugansk, …”

The province of Dobass doesn’t exist. Donbass is a region, consisting of the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.

Posted by AnonymousMouse | Report as abusive